Thursday, April 30, 2015

Before The 2015 NFL Draft: Looking Back At The 2012 NFL Draft and Nick Perry

The 2012 NFL Draft wasn't all bad for GM Ted Thompson, he did select CB Casey Hayward in the 2nd round and DT Mike Daniels in the 4th, but everyone else from that draft class is either out of the league or hanging on by a thread. Except for 1st round pick LB Nick Perry:
Coincidental, it was reported that the Seahawks are unlikely to exercise the fifth year option on a similar player drafted in the 2012 1st round; LB Bruce Irvin. Teams usually exercise that fifth year option, even the Redskins did it for QB Robert Griffin III this month, and when a team doesn't exercise it, that's usually a sign that the player won't return in 2016. The 2012 NFL draft wasn't a good year in general; overall picks Nos. 2 through 7 are all selections their teams probably wish they could have back.

Perry's a frustrating player. In 2012 and 2013, he flashed signs of being a great pass rusher alongside some terrible games and multiple injuries. In 2014, he stayed healthy and was surprisingly good against the run (which was his biggest weakness coming out of USC) but was generally ineffective as a pass rusher. The estimate was that picking up the option would cost $7.751 million in 2016, which is way too much for what Perry's shown so far in his career. It would seem like 2015 is Perry's last season with the Packers.

Similarly the Packers didn't exercise their option on OT Derek Sherrod while giving him every opportunity to prove himself. Though it didn't work out with Sherrod, Perry has managed to become a solid run defender despite that being a major concern three years ago. He seems more likely to turn it around than Sherrod, unless the Packers draft an obvious replacement for him this weekend. It looks like they intend to give him another chance as part of their rotation in 2015.

The 1st round is tonight, and it's been a rocky road for GM Ted Thompson since his last, great 1st round selection of LB Clay Matthews in 2009. Perry is looking like another mistake, though he'll get one more year to turn it around. I've actually done quite well in guessing which player Thompson will select over the past few years, I was dead-on with his choice of Sherrod, so my stamp of approval hasn't been a harbinger of goodness. I'm hoping he selects someone totally off of my radar (like Rodgers in 2005 or Matthews in 2009).

Monday, April 27, 2015

2015 NFL Draft: What Do The Packers Need In The First Round?

The personnel man said "Ted will get a corner and a defensive lineman and a rush linebacker. It's just a matter how they've got their board stacked."
Probably the best thing you could do at this point is stop reading what I've written and go read Bob McGinn's mass of articles posted over the last few days at JS Online. But here's my two cents:

Cornerback. One of the personnel guys he interviewed said that Micah Hyde isn't a corner. I don't agree, but assuming he's correct then cornerback becomes very important. If Ted Thompson thought it was critical then he wouldn't have let both Tramon Williams and Davon House leave in free agency. They had to draft a cornerback or two anyway for depth with them gone but they don't need someone who can start now.

Defensive lineman. After Mike Daniels and Datone Jones (as a situational pass rusher) the tackle and end positions were in rough shape. Re-signing B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion plugged the holes but they don't provide any hope for improvement. There are a lot of options in the middle rounds if one of the top picks don't fall into their laps early.

Rush linebacker. I was toying with this idea since I've been underwhelmed with the options at inside linebacker. Bob McGinn got a quote complimenting LB Carl Bradford, who spent 2014 as a NFL redshirt. He played outside in college but moved inside by the end of the preseason. If Bradford can be counted on as a backup and Clay Matthews stays inside, then the key is getting a couple linebackers either inside or outside just to replace the roster spots for A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. Maybe they're encouraged about the development of Nate Palmer, who spent the 2014 season on I.R.

Offensive lineman. This article made it seem like a bigger need, but with the starting five set and JC Tretter and Don Barclay both returning as backups, there's not much room on the roster for another lineman. They aren't going to keep more than eight on the active roster. It's a good idea to draft one every year (and they usually do) but it isn't essential to spend a high draft choice.

They will sit and wait and see who falls to them at No. 30 but if there's an available player with a 1st round grade on their draft board at each linebacker, defensive end/tackle and cornerback, they should still go for the linebacker. Except for the times when they've moved Matthews inside, they haven't had a play making inside linebacker in years and they still need one for the defense to take a step forward. If that means finding a play making outside linebacker instead and keeping Matthews inside, that's OK too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Packers Draft Targets: Eric Kendricks, Byron Jones, Jalen Collins

I haven't written a lot about the 1st round draft prospects for the Green Bay Packers. The subject hasn't had much interest for me this year. The obvious prospect looks like Eric Kendricks as a desperately needed inside linebacker but he looks more like a 2nd round pick.

Anyone they draft at the end of the 1st round will at least provide depth and he's going to be a good player. They need an inside linebacker right now, and the 2015 Packers might be better off with a decent veteran (or young veteran) who knows how to play rather than a talented rookie with a big learning curve. Drafting for need might not help them if they reach too high up for a lesser player.

SB Nation compiled a list of mock drafts from all over and came up with the most frequently named players linked to the Packers. GM Ted Thompson isn't giving away any information, so these are all just guesses and no team has as little consensus about a player than the Packers. There are three favorites depending on whether you want the Packers to draft for need or the best available player.
UCLA LB Eric Kendricks. He might be the most pro-ready, but no one really knows about that until he steps onto the practice field at training camp/OTAs. He's not huge for his position but he's got coverage skills that are essential at inside linebacker. He'd be a help even if he can only offer a part-time role in 2015.

UCONN CB Byron Jones. Here's your best available player. He blew away the competition at the NFL combine and is probably as good an athlete as any player in the draft. The downside is that he didn't play a lot of cornerback in college. 2013 was his first season at cornerback and he missed much of 2014 with a shoulder injury. He reminds me of Sam Shields, who should have been a big project at cornerback too but instead played a major role during his rookie season. If the Packers do select Jones, he'll probably be ready sooner rather than later. Cornerback is a big need as far as depth goes, but isn't a bigger need than inside linebacker. It might be better to draft the high ceiling cornerback in the 1st round than reach for a linebacker.

LSU CB Jalen Collins. He's not as athletic as Jones, but he's played a lot of cornerback in college over the last three years in the SEC. The NFL might not exactly know what they're getting with Jones but they have a lot of college film on Collins. He reminds me of Davon House, which isn't a bad thing, as a lanky, fast cornerback who might need some time to work on his techniques.

I don't have a horse in this race. If there was a great inside linebacker prospect available in the late 1st round (such as 2014 1st round pick C.J. Mosley) I'd be all over him, but that player isn't in the 2015 draft. They'll get a good player and they can always use help/upgrades at almost every position, so I'll probably like the selection, if it's one of these three players or someone else.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Packer News: Kuhn and Richardson Return in 2015

At least the NFL is finally releasing the 2015 schedule this week, and I can figure out if I can make it to a game at Lambeau this year. Unfortunately the NFL draft is still over a week away which brings another week of complete guess work about prospects and what the heck GM Ted Thompson might be thinking.

But there was some actual news last week.
Re-signing FB John Kuhn for the veteran's minimum was a no-brainer. He's never hurt and his run blocking was solid last season. He can also be trusted in pass blocking and he's useful as an occasional short yard runner. That he can provide all of this while only carrying the salary cap charge of a late round draft choice is a bargain.

S Sean Richardson is costing more than the Packers expected, the offer sheet he signed with the Raiders (and the Packers matched) was about a million more than the Packers' original offer, but to let him go could have been a disaster. He's their only backup defensive back with experience (I'm considering their top 5 defensive backs as all starters since Dom Capers has them in the nickel package so often). He's not good in pass coverage and much better as a sort of linebacker, but they can probably expect he'll play on about 400 snaps next season (depending on what happens in the draft) and if any player on the team can be deemed a critical backup at this time, he's it.

It was the right choice to bring both players back in 2015.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Will The Packers Match Sean Richardson's Offer Sheet?

My first thought agreed with that ESPN article below, and $2.5 million for a backup safety is too rich for GM Ted Thompson. Over The Cap says the Packers only have around $5 million in cap room, which they still need a chunk of for their upcoming rookie class. But I'm having second thoughts:

Their defensive backfield depth is nothing without Sean Richardson. If he did leave, then there's no one behind their top five defensive backs currently on the roster that even played one snap on defense last season. The cost of an extra $1 million (Richardson's tender is already on their cap at $1.5 million) might be well worth it for a reliable defensive back.

Nick Perry and Datone Jones would have about the same cap charge as Richardson next season. While both are former 1st round picks and more a part of the regular defensive rotation than Richardson, both of them had play counts last season below at least three other players at their positions. In 2014, Richardson had about a third of the snaps that either Perry or Jones had, but it's not a stretch to imagine a larger role for Richardson in 2015 with Tramon Williams and Davon House now gone.

He'll cost more than they wanted him to, but I bet they keep him for next season. Otherwise they'll have to kick the tires on a current street free agent or two to find someone who can replace him.

Monday, April 06, 2015

2015 NFL Draft and Packers Expected Targets

The Green Bay Packers are arguably the most tight lipped (especially GM Ted Thompson) organization in the NFL, so no one has any idea who they might draft. But in recent years, their first round pick is usually at a position where they urgently need help. For example, last year they badly needed a replacement for FS M.D. Jennings and they drafted HaHa Clinton-Dix in the 1st round. The mock drafts might not get the actual player right but they could very well chose the correct position.
Currently, CBS Sports has four mock drafts posted, one of which also selects UCLA ILB Eric Kendricks and the other three have cornerbacks. I think all four might have selected someone at inside linebacker if their were more (any) inside linebackers with a first round grade. Even Kendricks might be more of a 2nd round caliber player.

There aren't as many players listed as having met with the Packers as there are for other organizations, but Walter Football does list 14 players. There are only a few positions listed, but there are three positions where the Packers have met with three or more players:

1. Running back. I didn't see that one coming. While this isn't a need position, they can't afford to have their skill positions understocked, which is why drafting three wide receivers and Davante Adams in the 2nd round last year made sense. Maybe they'd consider using the 2nd round pick again (RB Eddie Lacy in 2013) this season on right running back.

2. Defensive back. I'm lumping two cornerbacks and one safety together, but the departure of Tramon Williams, Davon House, and probably free agent Jarrett Bush has left them thin in the secondary. Micah Hyde could play cornerback full-time which would then make drafting a safety important too. While they are set with their top five defensive backs, depth is needed but maybe not in the 1st round.

3. Defensive tackle. This might not be as important after re-signing both Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji but they still could use an upgrade over those two veterans. Also, recent draft picks Khyri Thornton and Josh Boyd might not be keepers. They met twice with Washington's Danny Shelton, who shouldn't be available at the end of the 1st round but would be a great addition if he did slip that far.

They have also met with two TEs (Minnesota's Maxx Williams was one) and Miami's Clive Walford twice. Reading the evaluation on Walford is like reading a description of TE Richard Rodgers, so I can see why the Packers might have interest in a player like Walford. He has a 2nd/3rd round grade, so it's more likely they'd be looking at him in the late 2nd.

I'll be happy as long as they address inside linebacker, defensive tackle, and defensive back at some point in the draft so I don't have a particular favorite. But inside linebacker still stands out as such a glaring need, Sam Barrington is the only player on the roster who looks like a favorite to start at either inside position (assuming Clay Matthews isn't staying inside), so that position still looks like the biggest need.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Packers Bring Guion and Raji Back For 2015

The Green Bay Packers had to do something at defensive tackle and still do need to address the position in the upcoming draft. But the draft doesn't always go like expected so bringing back two familiar faces should at least keep their depth in decent shape for next season. Also, both NT B.J. Raji and DT Letroy Guion are returning on one-year deals that aren't going to cause any future salary cap problems if they don't work out.
DT Mike Daniels is arguably their best defensive player and Datone Jones was very good as a situational pass rusher, but after them their defensive line depth was bad. They have three young players who could still develop (Mike Pennel, Khyri Thornton, and Josh Boyd) but they can't count on them for anything more than a part-time role.

I'm shocked Guion avoided any serious legal troubles from his recent arrest, but the Packers obviously have no concerns about bringing him back so he shouldn't be a problem in the locker room. He was forced into the role of nose tackle last season after Raji was hurt, and it's not his best position, but he wasn't terrible against the run and occasionally provided some pass rush. If he's getting close to the $1 million he received in 2014, he'll be worth the money.

Raji was terrible in 2013 and he was hurt for all of 2014. The Packers still think well of him and will pay him $3 million in 2015 but I'm not sure he's worth it anymore. I don't know how many more chances he'll receive but so far the answer is "at least one more."

So I'm not a fan of either signing but something needed to be done at defensive tackle. This assures that they won't be scrambling for depth during training camp and gives them some veteran options. I can't argue with the safe move even if it doesn't make them all that much better in 2015.